Trump in Historical Context

The Trump phenomena isn’t anything this country hasn’t seen before:

The election of Donald Trump was a surprise and an upset, but the movement that he rode to the presidency has deep roots in American history. Mr. Trump’s strongest supporters are the 21st-century heirs of a political tendency that coalesced in the early 1820s around Andrew Jackson.

Old Hickory has been the despair of well-bred and well-educated Americans ever since he defeated the supremely gifted John Quincy Adams in the 1828 presidential election. Jackson’s brand of populism—nationalist, egalitarian, individualistic—remains one of the most powerful forces in American politics. The Republican Party’s extraordinary dominance in this election demonstrates just how costly the Democrats’ scornful rejection of “hillbilly populism” has been.

Read the whole thing. I’m pretty sure I would have been an Adams supporter in the election of 1828 had I lived at the time. But I don’t think Trump is anything new or scary. I don’t think he’s Hitler, and I don’t think he’s a fascist. To the extent he’s an authoritarian, it’s not a version of authoritarianism that’s foreign to the American character. I don’t like it, but I don’t think it’ll be the end of the country either. Some fast Trump facts, unrelated to above, but that I think are interesting:

  • He is the only person to ever win the presidency with no prior government service or having held no elected office. We’ve elected a lot of generals with no political experience, like Ike and Grant, but it could be argued that leading the Allied Forces and Army of the Potomac was a harder job than being president.
  • He is the oldest person to ever take office. Reagan previously held that record. However his father lived into his 90s, and his mother nearly made it to 90, so he’s got that going for him.
  • He is the most immigrant president we’ve ever had. Seriously, it’s true. Most members of the President’s Club are cousins to each other, because their families have all been here forever. People threw a lot of birther nonsense at Obama, with accusations of being less than American, but while Obama’s father was Kenyan, his mother’s line has deep roots in the USA. He is a distant cousin to Bitter, and several other US Presidents. Trump is the grandson of German immigrants, and the son of a Scottish immigrant. He has the most immigrant background of any US President. Let the irony of that sink in a bit.
  • He is the first President to have a First Lady who is an immigrant. The only other President that comes close is John Quincy Adams, whose wife Louisa was born in London, but to American (colonial at the time) parents. He is the first President who has a First Lady who speaks English as a second language.
  • He’s the first President who’s been married three times. Three others have been married twice.
  • He is our first President whose alma mater is the University of Pennsylvania. I’m sure they are so proud down there!
  • The state that has produced the most Presidents is New York, and Donald Trump will take the number of Presidents whose home state is New York from 6 to 7, topping out Ohio. He joins Martin Van Buren, Millard Filmore, Grover Cleveland (elected twice), Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. However, only Donald Trump and Theodore Roosevelt were born in and raised in New York City.
  • He is the first Republican to take Pennsylvania in a Presidential race since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

15 thoughts on “Trump in Historical Context”

  1. My 6th great grandfather was part of a regional campaign team for Andrew Jackson. I was a little appalled, but I realized quickly that I had no idea what was motivating him to support the guy. Maybe it was just because he was the hero at the Battle of New Orleans and my ancestor who was a private in the Revolution happened to appreciate that. I have no idea. But it was nice to have that context of history before this election. It put me at peace with just about any result to know that we’ve survived presidents with terrible policies before. Sometimes at great cost, but we are still a nation.

  2. As much as I hate Trump, I don’t think he’s Hitler or evil or anything. I think he could set the liberty movement back, but with the way he’s acting on guns is proving me wrong.

  3. “To the extent he’s an authoritarian, it’s not a version of authoritarianism that’s foreign to the American character. I don’t like it, but I don’t think it’ll be the end of the country either.”

    I find the idea of his authoritarianism to be the most absurd trope of the election.
    a- all presidents are authoritarian, and seek to expand executive authority, regardless of party.
    b- the framers of the constitution anticipated this and separated powers. They had a recent experience with another tyrant, King George the III
    c- “separation of powers” is not predicated on three feckless, weak branches of govt. It is premised on three strong branches seeking more power. Government is a strong force: To check a strong force you need equal and opposite forces.

    If the executive has too much power, it’s because courts defer too much to executive agency regulations, and because Congress leaves too much ambiguity or delegates too much to other branches.

    The “cure” for an authoritarian president is for Congress and the courts to step up and rewrite/strike laws/regulations.

    The reality is that Clinton would have been far more of an “authoritarian” than Trump. She would have appointed liberal justices who would have been *even more* deferential to agency regulations and executive and federal power. She promised to enact her agenda through executive order, following strongly in Obama’s footsteps.

    I do not worry about Trump’s authoritarian streak. I expect it from all Presidents! Under Trump the media hates him, congress hates him (I think the honeymoon will be short), and the courts hate him. I expect the Democrats to discover the filibuster. Maybe Congress will start rethinking writing ambiguous laws that delegate too much power to the executive. And I hope/think conservative supreme court nominees will heavily cut back Supreme Court precedent that requires deference to agency rules (and also uphold the constitution as written).

    Clinton would have cemented expansive executive authority for decades, making the next Trump even more dangerous. Trump will make “separation of powers” great again.

    1. On the other hand, Calvin Coolidge gave us a good example of a President who isn’t particularly authoritarian. While we *can* expect it from Presidents, it doesn’t mean that we *should*.

  4. Depends on what you consider home state and producing a president. Eight presidents were born in Virginia, but not all of them were living in Virginia when they were elected.

    1. Like Virginia, Ohio claims to have produced eight Presidents:
      William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and, Warren G. Harding.

      1. Computer glitches left my above post lacking editing.
        All the Ohio claimed Presidents were born in Ohio, with the exception of Virginia born William Henry Harrison who was living in Ohio when elected.

  5. Trump may also be the first president with a concealed carry permit.

    1. Theodore regularly carried a handgun as President. During one gathering in the White House, it hit the floor and skittered across the room. I can’t recall the exact carry method that failed him. Pocket or cummerbund, I think.
      Remember, he was a long time shooter/hunter and became prez when his predecessor died as a result of an assassination attempt injury.

      FDR’s wife carried a gun.

      Reagan’s wife had a gun in the White House, but I’m unsure if she carried it outside the house. Reagan himself may have, but I’m not sure.
      There may be other WH denizens I’ve overlooked.

  6. Trump has a NY CCW but that is not allowed in DC. So is that the impetus for National CCW?

    1. THey have a history of not being happy with armed Principals.
      Problem with them is they, like every other protection group, are not perfect. History shows that those groups have a tendency to hit their principals while in the midst of reacting to an attack. That, and deliberately taking them out. A protection team can be a real can of worms for those reasons.

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